Remembering a part of American history during World War II
The Utah State Legislature is in session at the present time at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. There are many bills which are being entered and debated by members of the Utah State Senate and the Utah House of Representatives.
One bill proposed by Utah State Senator Jani Iwamoto is to make February 19 each year as a permanent Day of Remembrance to commemorate the Japanese American experience of injustice during World War II. Senator Iwamoto is of Japanese ethnicity and knows the value of keeping this history alive in order to hopefully keep it from happening to anyone else.
The bill states:
SB 58 designates an annual Day of Remembrance on February 19 observing the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
On February 19th of this year, it will have been 80 years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens.
These innocent people were displaced and incarcerated, and forced to leave their property and lives behind, causing turmoil and grief--simply because of their ancestry. Over 30 years ago, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to formally apologize and provide redress to Japanese Americans who had been stripped of their civil liberties. The Day of Remembrance lets us vow to remember and recommit our charge to safeguarding the civil rights of ALL Americans so that what happened to Japanese Americans will never happen again. [Source: Utah Senator Jani Iwamoto Newsletter]
Utah has had Governor's Proclamations in prior years to proclaim February 19 as a Day of Remembrance. This bill is to make it a permanent Day of Remembrance each year in Utah.
The bill had passed unanimously out of a Senate committee and then voted on by the full Senate where it passed unanimously. The bill came before a House committee on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, and passed unanimously out of that committee. It will now be voted on by the full House of Representatives.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This allowed the military commander to remove people from certain areas. The order was only used with people who were of Japanese heritage who lived on the West Coast of the continental United States. It affected around 120,000 people, most of whom had been born in the United States and were citizens.
There were ten camps hastily constructed in remote and desolate areas of the United States. Those camps are now called American concentration camps. The people were held as prisoners without any due process. It was later determined that the reasons for the unjust incarceration were racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a lack of competent government leadership at that time.
This bill is significant for Utah partly because one of the ten camps was located in Utah. The Topaz Camp is near the town of Delta. There is now a Topaz Museum in Delta, and there are monument markers at the site of the Topaz Camp where over 8,000 persons were imprisoned during World War II. They were mostly from the San Francisco Bay Area of California.
There was also an American concentration camp in Wyoming at Heart Mountain. There is an interpretive learning center at the Heart Mountain camp location.
The passage of SB 58 would be a good reminder that we should never allow history to repeat itself by letting such racism and racial profiling take place as existed during World War II against those who were of Japanese descent. Most of those incarcerated were American citizens.
Japanese American organizations are anxious to tell the history and recommend that people visit the camp sites, if at all possible, to learn more about the injustice which occurred against American citizens who were of Japanese ethnicity. It is a part of American history which is often neglected and not taught in schools.
[Reference: The Japanese American Story as Told Through a Collection of Speeches and Articles, www.thejapaneseamericanstory.com]